8 rawlings final .pdf
Erosion-Induced Community Displacement
Ninglick River overtook the Newtok River, the land buffer between the
village and the Ninglick was lost; now, the Ninglick is moving closer to
Newtok due to recurrent floods and the resulting erosion.11 As a result of
the problems caused by climate change, flooding, and erosion, the majority
of Newtok is projected to be underwater by 2017.12 The cost to relocate
the village is estimated to cost between $80-200 million.13 Despite
enormous cost, the villagers have decided to relocate to Mertarvik.14
However, Newtok does not have the financial ability to fund the relocation
and is unable to qualify for the majority of federal grants due to the
stringent federal cost-sharing requirements, which are geared towards
mitigation. The result leaves Newtok with few avenues to seek relocation
Two solutions that would assist Newtok in obtaining funding involve
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA standards
as set forth in the Stafford Act, which offer the Natives no hope of
acquiring funding for relocation attributable to climate change, must be
amended to create a FEMA cost-sharing exception. Additionally, FEMA’s
only current relocation initiative requires a natural disaster declaration;
therefore, FEMA standards as set forth in the Stafford Act must be
amended to create a community relocation grant program. The inevitable
relocation, combined with the imminent threat of flooding and continued
erosion, has placed significant obstacles in Newtok’s path of obtaining
FEMA grant funding to improve existing infrastructure.16 The majority of
the FEMA grant programs require recipient cost-sharing and a federal
disaster declaration.17 However, Newtok is ineligible for the majority of
FEMA funding programs because Newtok is unable to pay the hefty costsharing requirement needed for project consideration and construction,
11. Relocation Report, supra note 2.
12. Assistance Program, supra note 6.
13. See U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENG’RS ALASKA DIST., STUDY FINDINGS AND TECHNICAL
REPORT: ALASKA BASELINE EROSION ASSESSMENT 10 (Mar. 2009), available at
http://www.climatechange.alaska.gov/docs/iaw_usace_erosion_rpt.pdf (Army Corps’ estimated cost
is $95-125 million).
14. U.S GOV’T ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, GAO-09-551, ALASKA NATIVE VILLAGES: LIMITED
PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE ON RELOCATING VILLAGES THREATENED BY FLOODING AND EROSION
28 (2009) [hereinafter GAO 2009 Report].
15. Id. at 37-38.
16. Relocation Report, supra note 2, at 7.
17. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, Pub. L. No. 93-288
(codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5208 (2006)) [hereinafter Stafford Act] (describing when
and how the federal government will fund pre- and post-disaster projects).